The 5 Secrets of Awesome Agency-Client Relationships

Advertising agency and client relationships usually fall into three categories: Contentious, unremarkable, or effective. The formation of strong working partnerships takes time, effort, and a little bit of luck – and some strategy.

Based on our experience, here are some of the elements we see as essential to achieving agency-client awesomeness:

Smart Discovery
Thorough discovery during the hiring process is important for both parties in the agency-client relationship. Agencies and clients don’t have to start off with the exact same marketing and advertising philosophies in order to be successful. But if there isn’t at least some common ground in terms of core beliefs, or a willingness to consider new ideas, both parties will likely find it difficult from day one to work together harmoniously.

Shared Values
This is another aspect of a smart discovery process. “Do we have the same value system?” is a question that agencies and clients don’t often ask of each other. But it’s an important issue to explore. An agency with a laid-back culture isn’t always going to be a good fit for a client that wants to win at all costs, while a client that wants to always be on their own schedule probably won’t work well with a shop that’s focused on production timelines.

Transparent Expectations
Nothing can bring a relationship down like unspoken expectations. “This client is always late to meetings!” and “Why doesn’t this agency call me to go over the weekly status reports the way my last agency did?” are both examples of issues that agencies and clients must either air respectfully or learn to live with without resentment.

Respect
Contrary to what many clients seem to think, it’s not necessary to trash your agency’s ideas in order to get them to do better work. “This seems off the mark”, “We don’t think this is going to work” or “We’re not entirely crazy about this idea” followed by specific feedback and re-direction will get you much farther than harsh criticism.

Also, both agencies and clients should always remember to ask for the other side’s perspective when they are hammering out plans and ideas. It’s amazing how a simple “What are your thoughts?” (followed by active listening to the other party’s response) can go a long way towards establishing trust.

Time
In an era where we seem to be increasingly committed to doing everything lightening fast – and almost exclusively via email or Skype meetings – it’s become commonplace to work with people you rarely lay eyes on. This way of doing business makes it hard for colleagues to get to know each other or get a sense of each other’s personalities.

That’s why gestures like inviting your agency or client to your company’s 4th of July fish fry, or to your monthly team volunteer outing where you pack grocery sacks at the food bank go a long way towards building stronger, richer relationships.

We’re the agency that plays nicely with other agencies. If you need help with an upcoming client project or your own marketing, we’d love to hear more about it.